This is the first in a series of posts sharing information about the brilliant musicians who form the backbone of Orchestra of St John’s. Thank you to John Alex Heley, our principal cellist, for taking the time to share some of his playing experiences with us.
What made you first want to play the cello?
I was six when I had my first lesson. I heard a performance of The Swan from Carnival of the Animals by Saints Saens. I said my father “I want to play one of those!”
What was your first professional concert?
My first professional concert was at Crystal Palace Bowl – an open air summer venue with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra ten days after leaving the Guildhall School of Music.
Tell us a funny story about something that’s happened to you on stage.
The funniest that happened was in my RPO time. I was sitting no.2 on the front desk at the Royal Albert Hall. Eldon Fox was playing principal and was an extrovert player and ended a crescendo with an elaborate whoosh of an ‘up’ bow. His bow flew through the air to land on a surprised audience member. Eldon then proceeds to retrieve his bow including a ‘thank you’. Meanwhile there was an upcoming solo, and I had to play it. Nerve-wracking as it was I did my best without laughing 😂😂😂
Who is your favourite composer?
Johann Sebastian Bach has to be my favourite composer.
What piece of music makes you happy?
Mozart 29th Symphony in A makes me happy.
What is your favourite concert venue?
Concert venue has to be the Musikverein in Vienna so much history and incredibly knowledgable audiences…you have to be at your best.
When did you get involved with Orchestra of St John’s?
My first concert with OSJ was in Santander in Spain. I was sub principal in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the time.
Very soon after that John invited me to take up the post of principal and I managed to combine the two for a while. I left RPO soon after that and very soon after became Associate Principal of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and continued to play in both. This was a long time ago. Now having left ASMF I can involve myself completely with OSJ including the Music for Autism projects, a post I have proudly held for 40 years.
John will be performing as a soloist in the Monne Cello Concerto as part of our Ashmolean Proms concert series next summer.